With only one in 10 Americans meeting the daily recommended intake amount of vegetables, it's important to take every opportunity to get them into your diet. Not only do vegetables provide an array of nutrients including fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients, but eating vegetables (and fruits, which are also under consumed by 85 percent of Americans) is also closely associated with a multitude of health and well-being benefits.
Instead of neglecting your greens and the rest of the produce section, why not work to sneak veggies into larger meals? Breakfast is one meal where vegetables are often forgotten in favor of carb-heavy pastries or simple eggs. There are a variety of vegetables you can include at breakfast, though, including dark green vegetables like kale and spinach, red and orange vegetables like carrots and bell peppers, legumes, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.
In addition, per the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fresh, frozen, canned and even dried count toward your daily recommended vegetables. If you're choosing canned, look for low sodium or drain and rinse your beans, as research shows that you can reduce the sodium by up to 40 percent. If you choose frozen vegetables, pick packages where the vegetable are the only ingredient listed; skip those with sauces or butter that contain extra calories and saturated fat.
It's time to skip the cereal, listen to your mama and the CDC, and use these 12 simple tips to add veggies to your morning meal.
This Mediterranean dish from my "The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook" is traditionally made with canned tomatoes, peppers and onions, and is a step up from sunny-side up eggs. I often meal prep shakshuka at the beginning of the week and eat it every morning. You can increase the number of veggies used and add spinach, kale or even beans to up the nutrition even more.
2. Egg Bites
Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of ChampagneNutrition, incorporates veggies into her breakfast in the form of egg bites. "They're popular at coffee shops and incredibly easy to make at home, either in a machine made specifically for them or in muffin tins," explains Hultin. She recommends using chopped fresh broccoli or spinach, pre-chopped vegetables or frozen varieties to hide in your egg bites.
Smoothies are another easy way to up your veggies at breakfast if you're often on the go or in a rush. Cheryl Buckley, M.S., M.B.A., R.D.N., C.D.N., owner of Cheryl Buckley Nutrition, LLC recommends adding veggies like celery, cucumbers, spinach or frozen riced cauliflower to smoothies to amp up immunity while getting lots of fiber and other nutrients. With the right mix of healthy fats and protein powder, you won't even notice the extra veggie servings—but your body will!
A favorite trick of New York-based Emily Abegglen, R.D.N., C.D.N., uses is to buy a few local zucchinis when they're in season and chop them as soon as she gets home in the food processor. She then adds them to her oatmeal while the oats are cooking with a little unsweetened cocoa powder, dry roasted nuts or seeds, and a splash of vanilla. In the fall, canned pumpkin can be swapped for the zucchini.
5. Breakfast Burrito
If you like something a little hearty to start your morning, Melissa Altman-Traub M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., recommends a classic breakfast burrito. "Pop some chopped peppers, onions, leftover cooked sweet potatoes, a leafy green like baby kale and beans onto a grill to heat. Add chili powder, salsa and avocado slices, [then] and wrap in a warmed whole-wheat or corn tortilla." Boom. Breakfast.
6. Dinner for Breakfast
Think outside the box and enjoy dinner for breakfast. "Breakfast for dinner is already a thing but have you tried having dinner for breakfast [dinfast]?" suggests Samina Qureshi R.D.N., L.D., owner of Wholesome Start Nutrition Counseling. "Just the other day I enjoyed my leftover tofu veggie stir-fry with rice for breakfast," she says. "Not only does it provide my body with a variety of nutrients, but it saves me time and energy as I'm getting ready to start my day."
7. Breakfast Pizza
"I keep a frozen, plain cauliflower crust in the freezer and load it up with the leftover veggies from the week such as bell peppers, onions and that last scoop of salsa," Meridan Zerner, M.S., R.D.N., a dietitian at the Cooper Clinic in Texas says. "Top with a little cheese and salt and pepper and you have a warm, non-traditional, nutrient-rich breakfast slice!"
The easiest vegetables to incorporate into muffins are zucchini and carrots—either together or separately. Both work well with sweet flavors like cinnamon and maple syrup, and it's a great way to get some veggies at breakfast for anyone who is always on the go. Josten Fish, R.D., the owner of Muscle & Manna, adds shredded carrots to muffins to make them "carrot cake" style with an added kick of antioxidants.
9. Hummus and Veggie Breakfast
Another savory breakfast idea is from Cristina Svec, M.A., R.D.N., C.L.E., a dietitian working at West Oakland Health in California, who likes to use hummus as a spread for whole-wheat toast. She tops it with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers to get in lots of veggies without sacrificing any flavor. In addition, this combo provides "protein and fiber from hummus and lots of vitamins and minerals from the veggies (such as vitamin A, vitamin C), as well as phytochemicals that help fight cancer and keep the heart healthy, " she explains.
10. Savory Oat Bowl
Rather than always opting to sweeten your oats, how about a savory oat bowl? Lauren O'Connor, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutri Savvy Health, has a simple, but delicious recipe for giving her oats to some veggie love. "Sauté a little onion with bell pepper and mushrooms, add your favorite seasonings, and serve it over your bowl of warmed oats for a comforting and delicious morning meal."
11. Savory Yogurt Parfait
First oats, now we're coming for your yogurt parfait! "Savory yogurt parfaits are trending, and [they are] a fantastic way to add veggies into your breakfast meal," Lindsey Pine M.S., R.D., C.L.T., owner of TastyBalance Nutrition, says. "[First,] mix low-fat plain Greek yogurt with olive oil, black pepper and a small pinch of salt. Top with various vegetables, such as chopped Persian cucumber and dill, or roasted carrots, chickpeas and za'atar spice blend, then enjoy!"
12. Green Onion Sourdough Pancakes
"I make a savory sourdough pancake and top it with green onions snipped from my windowsill herb garden," says Bri Bell, R.D., owner of Frugal Minimalist Kitchen. Bell's trick is to sprinkle the green onions on the pancake before you flip it so they stick, then allow them to caramelize when you cook the other side of the pancake. Serve it with sautéed greens and runny eggs for a balanced breakfast.
The days of sugar cereal and syrup-soaked pancakes are long gone. Start your day the healthier way with one of these veggie-packed alternatives and you'll feel the difference in overall health and energy levels in no time.